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European Super League: Ministers will do 'whatever it takes' to block breakaway

 The government has said it will do "whatever it takes" to prevent a breakaway European Super League involving six leading English clubs.

The PM said ministers would be working to make sure the league did not go ahead in the way being proposed.

The Duke of Cambridge also said he shared fans' concerns about "the damage it risks causing to the game we love".

The 12 founding members of the league - plus three yet to join - would be permanent and never face relegation.

The competition would have 20 teams and the other five sides would have to qualify each year for the competition, to take place midweek and rival the Champions League.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham have signed up to the plan.

They would join Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan.

Fans and pundits have expressed revulsion at what they claim would be an unfair competition, locking others out of top European football.

Around 68% of football fans strongly oppose the creation of the European Super League (ESL), while only 14% support it, according to a YouGov survey of 1,730 fans.

Some 700 football supporters gathered outside Leeds United's Elland Road ground ahead of the club's Premier League game against Liverpool to protest against the proposed new league.

Prince William, who is the current president of the Football Association, said in a tweet: "Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community - from the top level to the grassroots - and the values of competition and fairness at its core."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he remained opposed to the idea of the league, despite his club agreeing to join it.

"I like the competitive aspect of football. I like that West Ham might play in the Champions League," he said, adding that he and his players did not know about the move before it happened.

Protesters outside Elland Road stadiumIMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionAbout 700 fans gathered outside the ground and then dispersed before kick-off

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Dowden criticised the so-called "big six" English clubs for going "against the very spirit of the game".

He added that owners "should remember that they are only temporary custodians of these clubs and that they forget fans at their peril".

A fan-led review, due to take place after the pandemic, has been brought forward because of the ESL announcement, Mr Dowden said.

It would be led by former sports minister Tracey Crouch and "consider how fans can have an even greater say in the oversight of the game and models which might best achieve that", he added.

The review also look at the finances of the men's and women's game, its governance and whether an independent football regulator should be set up.

media caption"We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game" – Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

Mr Dowden said he had spoken to Uefa and the Football Association, who both oppose the move by the 12 clubs, adding that, "if they can't act, we will".

"We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening," he told MPs. "We are examining every option from governance reform to competition law and mechanisms that allow football to take place.

"We will be reviewing everything Government does to support these clubs to play. We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game."

Earlier Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was "going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn't go ahead in the way that it's currently being proposed".

Downing Street said ministers were looking at a "range of options", including a German-style system of fan ownership of clubs and clawing back coronavirus support loans.

media captionBoris Johnson: Super League "not good for football"

But Labour urged ministers to do more, with shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens saying it was "time for the government to get off the subs bench and show some leadership on the pitch because we need reform of football".

She added: "It's not as if there's been a blockage here in Parliament preventing the government from taking action to sort the problems out."

The 12 founding members of the ESL said the pandemic had "accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model".

They added that there was a "need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid" - the interconnected system of leagues in the English game.

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